Vietnamese Meatballs

Hail, hail, the gang’s all here.  Oldest Son and Darling Daughter, most notably, although The Young One’s paterfamilias came for his graduation Sunday.  For the most part, the ceremony was quite moving, although while I understand the need for commencement speeches, seven seems a bit excessive. Especially for a graduation class of less than 400.

Afterwards we had a great party – Beloved smoked a brisket, 3 racks of spare ribs, a turkey breast and there were the usual barbecue side dishes.  All of it wonderful – and exhausting, which is why I took yesterday off (from life in general).

I really haven’t done any “creative” cooking over the last several days – I simply haven’t had the time – but I’ve been sitting on this recipe for awhile, and thought I’d post it.

Because it is absolutely delicious.

Banh Mi is a Vietnamese sandwich (“banh” literally means “bread” in Vietnamese) that became popular after the French colonization of the country.  It’s typically served on a crusty roll, such as a baguette, with pickled vegetables that usually include carrots and daikon radish.  Various meats are used, either smoked, cured or barbecued  – often all three.  Soft pork meatballs are also popular, and since I am so very fond of pork and meatballs, they are what I chose.

I love Vietnamese food, and this is my version of the banh mi, without the banh.  The meatballs are tender and flavorful, served over a pickled cabbage and carrot slaw and topped with a spicy mayo and a garnish of cilantro.  It is  a quick and easy meal – simply make the slaw and mayo, roll the meatballs and bake them.  And, oh my, is it just delicious?

It is.

Note:  Don’t be intimidated by the long list of ingredients – this really comes together quickly and easily.  And, as always, if you don’t eat pork, ground turkey (or ground goat) would work equally well.

Vietnamese Meatballs. All the bright flavors of a classic Banh Mi sandwich without the bread!

Click photo to enlarge

Vietnamese Meatballs
Serves: 4
  • Hot Chili Mayo:
  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise, preferably homemade
  • 2 teaspoons hot chili sauce, such as Sriracha
  • Meatballs:
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh basil
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 green onions, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce, such as nam pla or nuoc nam
  • 1 tablespoon hot chili sauce, such as Sriracha
  • 1 tablespoon coconut sugar
  • 2 teaspoons tapioca flour
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
  • Slaw:
  • 2 cups coarsely grated carrots
  • 2 cups thinly sliced Napa cabbage
  • 2 tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons coconut sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons Asian sesame oil
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. In a small bowl, whisk together the rice vinegar, coconut sugar, salt and sesame oil. In a large bowl, toss together the carrots and cabbage with the dressing until well coated. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
  2. Stir together the mayonnaise and hot chili sauce in a small bowl until well-blended. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to use.
  3. In a large bowl, gently mix together the ground pork, basil, garlic, green onion, fish sauce, hot chili sauce, coconut sugar, tapioca flour and salt and pepper with your hands. Roll into sixteen 1-ounce meatballs and place on a baking rack over a foil-lined, shallow-rimmed baking sheet. Bake the meatballs for 20 minutes, or until cooked through. Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 5 minutes.
  4. Divide the slaw equally between four plate, and top each with four meatballs. Drizzle with the spicy mayo, garnish with cilantro if desired, and serve.
  5. Nutrition (per serving): 537 calories, 42.9g total fat, 104.2mg cholesterol, 1314.1mg sodium, 704.6mg potassium, 19.5g carbohydrates, 2.2g fiber, 9.2g sugar, 21.4g protein.

16 thoughts on “Vietnamese Meatballs”

  1. I remember this! How could I forget it. Hey! Why did you forget it? You’ll have to make it again when the kimchi is done.

  2. SEVEN speeches? Yeah, that does seem excessive. 😉 Very cool the gang’s all there! And holy YUM BALLS – those look and sound absolutely delicious! You’re killing me over here with all the drooling you induce. 😉

  3. Banh mi ::sigh:: That looks and sounds so good. Hey, in a nice bit of serendipity, my favorite local Vietnamese restaurant—Vietnam Cafe—posted to their FB wall about banh mi with meatballs. How cool is that? NOM. Maybe it should be VietNOMNOMNOM!

  4. I’m going to try to make a variation of this with vegan mince or TVP. I love the idea of meatballs with a crunchy slaw for summer eating. Thanks for the recipe!

  5. Meatballs AND Vietnamese? Hooray! Now, I want to ask, for us Philistines, can you give us the subs for stuff like tapioca and coconut sugar? Pleeeeeeeze?

    1. Of course! Just substitute the tapioca flour with cornstarch (they can be used interchangeably) and the coconut sugar with plain brown sugar.

      I haven’t forgotten your request for a wheat flour/alternative flour conversion chart; I just haven’t had much time to work on it. It is coming, though.

  6. This looks like a tasty recipe – but there seems to be a minor error in the first ingredient. I presume the missing word is Mayonnaise

  7. My mother originally made this for me, I’ve since brought it home and make the bad-girl cornstarch version, but man is it good. Normally I glaze over recipes but this one is spot on as written. Thanks for sharing!

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